2002 Season In Review
The Cincinnati volleyball team continued its tradition of excellence in 2002 with another stellar season. The Bearcats finished the year 23-9, good for an eighth straight 20-plus win season. In addition, UC qualified for an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament, captured two in-season tournament titles and earned a third place finish in Conference USA.
After finishing the Conference USA season with an 11-2 record, the Bearcats were seeded third in the conference tournament. Opening tournament play with a quarterfinal match-up against Charlotte, Bonita Wise hit a C-USA Tournament record .750 as the Bearcats swept the 49ers.
In the semifinals against South Florida, the match was tied at one game each and the Bearcats held a seven-point lead late in game three. But the Bulls charged back, stealing game three and dominating game four to close out the win and advance to the finals.
Despite falling in the semifinals, the Bearcats received a third straight NCAA at-large tournament bid, drawing a first round contest against Arizona State. The Sun Devils came out on fire, taking the first two games to put the Bearcats in a sizable hole. Following the break though, UC came storming back, winning games three and four. But luck ran out on the Bearcats in the fifth game as Arizona State snapped out of its slump to bounce UC from the tournament with a 15-10 game five victory.
Shaky Start, Strong Recovery
For a second consecutive season, the Bearcats got off to a 2-5 start at the beginning of the year. Just as they had done in 2001, UC turned it around, winning 17 of its next 19 matches, including 12 in a row entering the conference tournament. The hot stretch, which spanned the entire Conference USA slate, led the Bearcats to a third place finish in the league standings with an 11-2 mark. During the run, UC knocked off a ranked foe (No. 25 Colorado State), while surviving tough C-USA road contests at Marquette, TCU and Houston.
A Season of Honors
Bonita Wise headlined a list of four Bearcats named to the All-Conference USA team, earning a spot on the first team. In addition, senior Trish Ladusaw was awarded an unprecedented third straight C-USA Defensive Player of the Year honor, also earning a spot on the all-conference second team. Joining the two seniors on the list of honorees were sophomore Julie DuPont on the second team and junior Laura Lauder on the third team.
Two Bearcats were honored for excellence both on and off the court. DuPont was named to the Verizon Academic All-America third team, while Ladusaw was chosen third team all-district.
Another Player, Another Milestone
Setter Laura Lauder has been the sparkplug of the Cincinnati offense in her three years as a starter for the Bearcats and she has the numbers to prove it. During an Oct. 26 match with Southern Miss, Lauder became Cincinnati's all-time leader in career assists and she finished 2002 with 4,406 to her credit. A closer look at the UC numbers show that Lauder gathered the record in far fewer matches than previous holder Paige Pees. Lauder moved to the top of the list in 85 matches, compared to 132 for Pees. On the Conference USA career chart, Lauder finished 2002 ranked sixth, just two behind fifth place Sarah Runka of South Florida.
DuPont's Stellar Season
After a solid freshman campaign in 2001, Julie DuPont turned herself into a star with an outstanding sophomore year. DuPont led the Bearcats in kills in all but five matches, averaging 5.14 kills per game, good for fifth in Conference USA. DuPont surpassed the 20-kill mark 13 times with eight or more digs 22 times and four or more blocks 11 times. This production comes after making the switch to the outside from middle blocker, a position at which she garnered all-freshmen team accolades in 2001. DuPont also made three solid bids for the fourth triple-double in school history, the highlight being a 24-kill, 13-dig, eight-block effort against Marquette.
An important ingredient in the Bearcats' success in 2002 was the steady contributions from the freshmen trio of Lindsey Garrison, Maddie Barron and Haley King. Garrison started all but one match at libero, while Barron was a starter in 19 contests. Barron finished fourth on the team in digs per game with 2.13, with Garrison right behind at 2.04 per game. In addition, Barron led the team in service aces with 23. King replaced an injured Leslie Newell in the starting lineup for a stretch late in the season, earning her first collegiate start against Saint Louis and posting a career-high six kills at TCU. The Bearcats have featured three of the last four Conference USA Freshman of the Year honorees, while placing at least one player on the All-Freshmen Team in four of the last five years.
Turning Up the D
A key to Cincinnati's 2002 success was its ability to keep opponents under .200 hitting. The Bearcats won all 21 matches in which they accomplished the feat in 2002 and are 38-2 over the last two seasons. Cincinnati established a school record against Eastern Kentucky for fewest points allowed in a match (50) since 30-point rally scoring was introduced. Another key element to winning was UC's improvement in opponents' hitting percentage. After ranking 12th in Conference USA in the category early in the season, the Bearcats finished third, holding opponents to a .182 clip. In addition, Cincinnati held six opponents below .100 hitting, including East Carolina to a season-low .032.
The Big Four?
While teammates Julie DuPont, Trish Ladusaw and Bonita Wise made most of the offensive headlines last season, Rachel Torblaa put together a very productive season of her own. Fueled by a career-high 18 kills in a win over Memphis, Torblaa finished the season fourth on the team with 2.27 kills per game, while hitting .273. Torblaa posted nine double digit kills matches in 2002, hitting .400 or better in nine matches, all Bearcat wins. Torblaa has also made a move onto the school career charts, where she ranks fifth in blocks per game at 1.36 and 10th in hitting percentage at a .263 clip.
Nine matches into the season, sophomore Leslie Newell was injured and had hit just .192 for the season to that point. Following that stretch, Newell turned up her play over the next 14 matches, before getting injured on Nov. 1 against Memphis. During that span, Newell carded 2.43 kills per game and hit .361, while adding 1.00 blocks per game. Included in that span was a career-best 22 kills with only two errors in 32 attempts (.625), against Marquette. The .625 hitting performance ranks as the fifth-best in school history. Annisa Blosser tops the charts with a .793 match in 1994. Newell finished the year ranked 10th in Conference USA with a .294 hitting percentage.
A Familiar Face
The Nov. 11 edition of Sports Illustrated featured a familiar face to Bearcat volleyball followers as senior Trish Ladusaw was profiled in the Faces in the Crowd section. Ladusaw received mention in the section after breaking the Conference USA career digs record.